NATO surprised by Turkish opposition to new applicants

was blinded by Ankara’s objections to and joining the bloc

had no reason to believe that there would be any problems with Sweden’s and Finland’s membership applications, said the Alliance’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday and admitted that he was blinded by “legitimate” Turkish unrest. He still wants and to join as soon as possible.

“Earlier in the process, we had no reason to believe there would be any problems,” Stoltenberg told Economic times on Monday, when he visited Sweden. As early as April, NATO had promised Sweden and Finland that the first stage of their accession would only take a couple of weeks, only to encounter Turkish objections when Ankara accused both countries of supporting terrorism.

“The Turkish unrest is not new,” Stoltenberg added and called Turkey “an important ally, and when an ally addresses security issues, we need to address them.”

“These are legitimate fears. This is about terrorism, this is about arms exports.” Stoltenberg said on Sunday in Finland. “We must address the security concerns of all Allies, including Turkish concerns about the PKK terrorist group.”

“My goal is to have Finland and Sweden as members as soon as possible. It can still go fast compared to other accession processes.” said the alliance chief to FT.

Stoltenberg added that his hope was that the matter would be resolved “within a reasonable time”, but that there was no deadline for doing so, suggesting that it may not be done before the NATO summit at the end of June.

Ankara has accused Helsinki and Stockholm of harboring members of banned Kurdish groups they consider to be “terrorists” and blockade of arms exports to Turkey. Sweden and Finland have reportedly complained that Turkey has not set them with specific requirements. A ten-pointer list appeared in the Turkish media last week, but it is still unclear whether it represents Ankara’s official position.

Stoltenberg is expected to convene Swedish, Finnish and Turkish officials in in the coming weeks. Last month, Ankara hosted talks with delegations from Stockholm and Helsinki, but Turkish President Erdogan later complained that they were not “at the desired level.”





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